Shop my wardrobe: Ebay dress sale!

Just a quick post to let UK readers know that I've started selling on Ebay, and this is the first round of dresses up for grabs:

Cute dresses available in my new Ebay shop now! Lots of 50s, swing, jive, wiggle retro dresses in plus sizes that really suit the curvy figure.
Available on my Ebay shop now.
I've been putting off having a wardrobe clear-out for ages, years actually and I've reached the point where there is just no more space in my room. So now that my thesis is in I've decided set up shop as an Ebay seller, and I should be putting a couple of items up every month. You know what to expect from me: mainly dresses, usually with a cute, retro feel (and accessories in the future) so please save me as a favourite seller if you're a UK Ebay buyer (if you aren't, get with it!). Most of the items are barely worn too, so catch a bargain. My Ebay seller ID is cabbagesandkings2014


XX WOW YES DOLL KISS: Valentine's Day outfit.

Mr Zissou and I weren't feeling the hype this Valentine's day but that didn't stop me theme-dressing a bit:

Valentine's Day outfit: red gingham shirt, red lipstick, suspender skirt and brogues with a fuzzy cat bag
Gingham shirt: Gap
Suspender skirt: River Island
Shoes: Hudson (via Office sale)
Bag: Ebay
Hair bow: Oxfam
I'm really into masculine shoes at the moment and love stomping around London in these brogues. Also, you may notice my hair changing drastically from post to post because I have acquired a few wigs from Lockshop. I bought them after messing with my natural hair colour after many years of abstinence, and finding out that touching up the roots in a salon would be at least £50 in London! I decided I'd do my own modest colouring at home and wear a wig now and then when I feel like changing it up. They also take fancy-dress nights to another level.

The star of this outfit is my sweet hand-embroidered anatomical heart with a gold arrow from Les Mirettes on Etsy . As a former anatomy student I have a free pass to buy any/all anatomy jewellery for the rest of my life. This one is perfect for Valentine's Day, non? Regardez:

Valentine's Day outfit: red gingham shirt, red lipstick, hand embroidered heart brooch/pin with a golden arrow, and gold heart earrings
Heart brooch: Les Mirettes
Gold heart earrings: Dorothy Perkins?
Shirt: Gap
Our only commercial concession this Valentine's Day was this cute ("and useful") tin of mini Love Hearts (HOT GLAM FIT GRR!). I was also so taken with the soft, fruity packaging of these "Munch Bunch Squashums" that I threw them in the shopping basket without even reading what they were (answer: delicious kiddy yoghurts).

I know, I know, what about the cat around my arm?? Well, it cost a whopping £9.30 with delivery, thanks to some detective work on Ebay. Nice and snuggly for winter, and importantly it has straps that are long enough to comfortably wear on my shoulder.

Valentine's Day outfit: red gingham shirt, suspender skirt with a fuzzy grey cat head/face hand bag from Ebay
Cuddly cat bag
Check out last year's Valentine's Day post when I made chocolate "eggs and sausages" for breakfast, and the year before's mechanical swan box. Here is my Matt Pugh owl couple wishing you a sugary Valentine's weekend whether you want one or not:

Red and white Matt Pugh wooden owl ornament couple wishing you a happy Valentine's Day
Happy Valentine's Day from the owls


More reasons to make Date Balls

Date balls are tasty, sweet, portable, healthy snacks that are cheap and easy to make. Add nuts for flavour and texture
Easy to make,  no-bake, healthy snacks you won't get bored of.
Date balls are tasty, sweet, portable, adaptable, healthy snacks that are cheap and easy to make. I'd heard it before but it wasn't until I made them myself that I realised how great these things really are, for the following additional reasons:
  1. No cooking/baking required, just blend ingredients and compress into balls
  2. They don't actually taste of dates. I've never been a fan of dates on their own but they provide the perfect foundation for this snack
  3. They're made up entirely of dry things in your cupboard so you can make a batch any time and don't need any fresh ingredients
  4. Because they're made form long-life dried goods you can make a big batch and keep them for ages 
  5. The ingredients are all cheap, especially the dates
  6. They're perfect for a snack in your lunchbox for when you need an energy boost and crave something sweet in the afternoon
  7. Unlike many commercial snack bars/energy bars/breakfast bars these will be largely free from artificial sweeteners, preservatives, thickeners, emulsifiers, stabilisers, colourants, excess salt and sugar, and glucose-fructose corn syrup (only as much as is in the dry ingredients)
  8. They are really versatile and you can have fun experimenting with whatever is in your dry cupboard, so you'll never get bored because there are so many possible combinations
Date balls are tasty, sweet, portable, healthy snacks that are cheap and easy to make.
There are so many things you can add to your date balls for flavour and texture like nuts, berries, coconut and spices.
You will need a blender to make these, and some pitted dates but the rest you can free-style based on this 4-step guide: pick one or two ingredients from each category, blend, and have fun molding into balls. The possibilities are almost endless:

1: DATES (the sticky part)


2. SUBSTANCE (the filling part)
  • oats
  • bran
  • puffed rice
  • puffed quinoa
  • unsweetened breakfast cereal (corn flakes, fiber bran flakes, shredded wheat, muesli)

3. FANCY BITS (for variety)
  • any unsalted nuts (cashews, pecans, almonds, peanuts, macadamia, pistachio)
  • unsalted seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, poppy)
  • dried berries (raisins, cranberries, cherries, goji berries)
  • dried fruit (prunes, apricots, banana chips, apple)
  • cookies, marshmallows or chocolate if you're feeling decadent

4. FLAVOUR (the finishing touch)
  • peanut butter
  • black sesame paste/seeds
  • peppermint oil or just abut any essence
  • vanilla seeds
  • coffee powder (be aware of how much caffeine you're consuming though)
  • cocoa powder
  • cinnamon, cardamom, clove, nutmeg
  • desiccated coconut (unsweetened because the dates are already naturally very sweet)
  • marmalade, jams or fruit preserves
  • ginger
  • chilli/pepper (a tiny bit enhances chocolatey flavours, I promise)
  • dried lavender flowers (a sprinkle could add a subtle lavender flavour)
  • brandy or Amaretto (for grown-up date balls)
Date balls are tasty, sweet, portable, healthy snacks that are cheap and easy to make.
Make two types of date balls for variety in your lunch box every day.
As a guideline, a bag of 375 grams pitted dates with all the added bits above makes about 20 golf-ball-sized snacks. If the blended mixture is too crumbly and dry to hold it's ball-shape you just need to add more dates into the mix to make it sticky again. To make it less wet/sticky add more from the SUBSTANCE category to stretch it further. The only caution I would add is that dates are naturally very sweet so be careful of adding any sweetened/sweetening products (eg. honey, syrup, Nutella, jam, marshmallows, chocolate) or these balls could become overwhelmingly sweet.

Mr Zissou and I have had great fun coming up with new flavours and ways to translate classic desserts into date balls. These are our favourite combos (add these flavours to your dates+substance base):

  • Cherry and Chocolate- dried cherries, cocoa powder, generous dose of vanilla seeds
  • Apple Pie- dried apples, cinnamon and a tiny bit of grated nutmeg 
  • Coconut and Banana- desiccated coconut, banana chips, vanilla seeds
  • Ginger Orange- candied orange peel from the baking section of your supermarket, dried ginger, cocoa, vanilla seeds 
  • Christmas Cake- Christmas mince meat (mixed fruit, mainly raisins), a dash of Amaretto, cinnamon, a little grating of nutmeg and clove. 
  • Lemon and Poppy Seed- plenty of poppy seeds, lemon curd or lemon preserve
  • Black Sesame- black sesame seeds, a dash of sesame oil, honey, prunes
We usually make a big batch consisting of 3-4 different flavours so we never get bored of our afternoon snacks.

By the way if you enjoy recipes then head over to Mr Zissou's blog because he seems to be updating it again. It's called Kos I Like It, because in Afrikaans which is spoken in South Africa, the word kos means food :)


Thesis submitted!

After my longest ever break from blogging I'm back. I had my PhD thesis to submit which is no small task and it completely and utterly consumed me. Writing those 230 pages was definitely one of the hardest things I'e ever done not only intellectually but also emotionally and even physically. Towards the end I wasn't doing well, but once it was submitted I went home to South Africa for some rest and resuscitation:

Ear attack!

I spent time with friends, family and pets at home in Johannesburg, and also spent a week in the beautiful Cape where I visited the southernmost tip of Africa, where the two oceans meet:

The southernmost tip of Africa

Seeing loved ones, feeling the sun on my skin, eating old favourites, getting plenty of sleep and admiring the the most beautiful countryside in the world all helped get me back on track and I am ready to face a new year. The next step is my PhD oral exam (also known as a viva or defense) which will be about 4 hours of intense questioning regarding my work, but once I pass that I can call myself Doctor Ellomennopee :) Until then I have a huge backlog of outfits, DIYs and photos to share with you. Thanks for sticking around.


Clay food and rainbow seaweed

Here's a quick post to show what Mr Zissou woke up to on his birthday:

Balloon avalanche / finish line
Birthday balloon avalanche
I used some birthday tape from Paperchase to set up a balloon avalanche, and as a jogger Mr Zissou's instinct was to run through it like a finish line. 

Afterwards, as is the tradition with leftover balloons, we put them in our bed under the blankets and jumped on them them until they all popped, and we were left with this peculiar object which looks like a piece of rainbow seaweed.

Dead balloons
We also baked a cake for a friend who he shares a birthday with:

Madeleine cake with cream-cheese frosting and Maltesers
It's actually a giant madeleine (using a recipe for the madeleines served at the St John restaurant which are widely regarded as the best in London), with my favourite cream-cheese icing from Hummingbird Bakery, and Maltesers on the top. Really, why would anyone ever use regular icing ever again? Because this cake was for an adult man the design is very restrained compared to some of my previous cakes!

Because Mr Zissou is such a foodie he's quite easy to find gifts for, and I bought him the ingredients he needs for "spherification": a molecular gastronomy technique made famous at the 3 Michelin star restaurant elBulli in Spain .

I got the idea for his gift because we went to the elBulli exhibition at Somerset House and I witnessed the wonder and longing in his eyes. elBulli was one of the most famous and groundbreaking restaurants in the world and for 6 months of the year it was a full time food-research lab. They only served food in the other half of the year, and in that time there were over 2 million requests for 8000 places. It closed in 2012 and has now been turned into the elBulli Foundation with a focus on food innovation. The exhibition included replicas of the food, and kitchen equipment developed by elBulli to make the weird and wonderful dishes. At the entrance was this 2 meter tall French Bulldog made of meringue with a collar of intricate sugar flowers and fruit:

The giant meringue Bulli guarding the elBulli exhibition at Somerset House
There was also a display showing how elBulli used clay models of food to perfect the colour, composition and quantity of their dishes:

Top: clay foodmorsels. Left: clay model of the dish. Right: the dish as it was served.

I bought the molecular gastronomy kit from Amazon, there are loads of them to choose from. Even though I work in a lab and have access to the things he needs like syringes, tubing and some of the chemicals, it would be a serious safety risk to use any of them to cook food, given the kind of chemicals that go round our lab!


The Death Aquatic: a budget drowned sailor/sea zombie Halloween costume

Determined not to spend any money this Halloween I was hell-bent on making the most of a free "sailor" outfit I found. Since the party was on a boat on the River Thames I thought an aquatic zombie would be appropriate.

DIY Halloween costume: drowned aquatic sea zombie sailor with scary make up, fish scales and seaweed
Making the most of a free sailor dress on Halloween: drowned sailor zombie
Total cost? £4 for the white face paint which I'm using next weekend too! You see, at my student residence there is a freecycle shelf where students put unwanted goodies, and others can pick them up and use them. It encourages people to clear out junk, is a great way to recycle and is understandably one of my favourite things about where I live. In August when there were a lot of students moving out I found this generic "sexy sailor" outfit, and a scruffy black wig within a few days of each other. 

DIY Halloween costume: drowned aquatic sea zombie sailor with scary make up, fish scales and seaweed
It's all about the accessories
I love a creative challenge (especially on a budget) and am definitely not one to settle for a really typical off-the-rack costume, so I set out to put my own spin on the freebies. My plan was to be a drowned sailor zombie, more Hamlet's Ophelia, and The Ring's Samara Morgan than The Only Way Is Essex's Amy :)

DIY Halloween costume: drowned aquatic sea zombie sailor with scary make up, fish scales and seaweed made from a generic sexy costume
Off-the-shelf generic sailor dress as it was meant to be worn, and my DIY zombified version.
I tried to dye the sailor dress black while I was dying some other black clothes that were greying and in need of rejuvenation, but it did not work AT ALL. The dye did nothing to the fabric which, if I had read the dye instructions I would have seen, is because it's completely synthetic. So to distress it I went at it with some green-brown acrylic paint and unpicked a few seams and ripped it in places to look sea-worn:

DIY Halloween costume outfit: drowned aquatic sea zombie sailor with scary make up, fish scales and seaweed
Starting point: a free wig and sailor dress. To distress it I unpicked some seams, tore it and covered it in green and brown paint.
I accessorised with some nautical jewellery, and if I was willing to spend any money I would have hunted for some starfish, sea-horse or shell jewellery too:

DIY Halloween costume outfit: drowned aquatic sea zombie sailor with scary make up, fish scales and seaweed and nautical accessories
Sailor zombie accessories
My dream accessory for this outfit would have been this 19th century sterling silver chatelaine with an octopus holding treasures like a powder box, pin holder, perfume bottle, mirror and whistle, beautiful and practical!

The perfect accessory for my outfit: Gorham and Company Chatelaine, from the Missouri History Museum
I wanted some "seaweed" in my hair, so I made a leaf crown by weaving some twigs around an alice band, securing with green wire, and tucking in some reindeer moss (believe it or not, the green wire and moss are from the same freecycle shelf on a separate occasion!).

DIY Halloween costume outfit: drowned aquatic sea zombie sailor with scary make up, fish scales and seaweed crown
DIY "seaweed" crown with plants from the garden
I learnt from my mistakes last year with the awful white "foundation" I bought, and got hold of some white face paint instead. I don't know why it didn't occur to me before that there are people who paint there faces for a living and so there are some seriously good professional products out there. I spent some time hanging around online clown forums and discussion boards and read some pretty heated debates about the best white face paint, from people that have been "clowning" since they were 11. I learnt that proper clown "grease paint" is the way to go but the name put me off a bit and I went for a water based paint from Mehron. 

DIY Halloween costume outfit: drowned aquatic sea zombie sailor with scary make up, fish scales and seaweed
Zombie face:
L'oreal Chrome Intensity shadow  in green
Make Up Forever matte blue shadow
Rimmel liner in blue
Gosh liner in black
Collection cosmetics Glam Crystals liner in silver
Mehron Fantasy FX face paint in white
Over the white face paint I drew on fish scales from my hairline with a blue kohl eyeliner, and then filled-in the scales with a silver glitter eyeliner. As usual getting ready took longer than expected, and I had to scribble the scales on in a huge hurry and then ask my friend to take a photo at the event, which was less than ideal.  I used dark blue and green eye shadow to make my eye sockets look dark and used the same shadow with a large blusher brush to apply around my collar bones. I hunched my shoulders forward and brushed the powder where the natural hollows are. I was very proud of this aspect of the make up and spent most of the night hunching my shoulders forward while doing zombie face. I used a black liner around my eyes and false eyelashes and also made my brows black:

DIY Halloween costume outfit: drowned aquatic sea zombie sailor with scary make up, fish scales and seaweed
Fish scale make up
I've been saving a pair of tights that had a hole in them already to ladder up for this costume. I also wore a dark blue denim skirt under the sailor "dress" which is actually so short it's a top:

DIY Halloween costume outfit: drowned aquatic sea zombie sailor with scary make up, fish scales and seaweed
Working my collar-bone make up
I did spot another girl at the boat party with the same sailor dress which is not at all surprising (there must be thousands of these in England), but she styled it in the original way it was intended so we looked pretty different.

This weekend while I was dressing-up as a sea zombie in London, my dear friend Marike was walking along the beach in Gordon's Bay (near cape Town, South Africa) and she took a photo of a real sea zombie:

A real sea zombie: seal leftovers from a shark attack in Gordon's Bay, South Africa. 
Poor seal! What can I say, it's tough sharing the water with Great White Sharks! Should I feel bad for thinking that he would have made an excellent pet for my Halloween character?

I'm really glad not to have to throw away my outfit and I've given it back to the freecycle shelf where hopefully somebody else can use it this weekend for Halloween. I'm sure the original owner would be pleased to see how much wear their purchase got!


Somewhere over the rainbow

Since Halloween is around the corner I thought I'd share a costume I wore a few weeks ago in case it inspires you to get thrifty. I was going to a housewarming party and because I've been so busy writing my thesis I completely forgot it was a Wizard of Oz fancy dress. About an hour before leaving though, I rifled through my wardrobe and realised I had everything I needed for Judy Garland as Dorothy in the 1939 Wizard of Oz. As you can see I was in such a hurry that I forgot to take off my anachronistic bangles, oops:

DIY Halloween fancy dress costume ideas: Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale from Wizard of Oz

While researching the Dorothy outfit I learnt that in 2012 the actual dress that Judy Garland wore in the film fetched $480 000 dollars at auction. Since I didn't need to buy anything new for this outfit, that's a total saving of $480 000 thanks to my thriftiness and burgeoning dress collection.

DIY Halloween fancy dress costume ideas: Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale from Wizard of Oz

My dress with a thin blue pin-stripe (I just learnt it's called "seersucker") is from a shop in Durban, South Africa, called Mooi, which to be honest I don't wear that often because it does make me look like an overgrown child (perfect for this look). The frilly vintage shirt underneath is actually a vintage nightie I bought for the equivalent of £0.20 from a car-parts dealership also in a suburb of Durban.

This look wouldn't have come together without suitably shiny red shoes, so I was glad to own these sweet-smelling plastic Melissa ones. I actually bought them because they are very practical on a rainy day in London.

DIY Halloween fancy dress costume ideas: Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale's red shoes from Wizard of Oz
Essential shiny red shoes

I happened to have a brownish wig which I tied into side plaits with a blue ribbon from my jar of gift-wrap ribbons I keep. I kept the makeup on my eyes quite plain and went for red lips and rosy cheeks, and exaggerated my eyebrows a bit to get that permanently forlorn look. The one thing I was really missing was a little toy Toto the dog to carry under my arm. Imagine!

DIY Halloween fancy dress costume ideas: Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale's from Wizard of Oz

If you need more inspiration then check out my three outfits from last year's Halloween. If you're looking for a cheap and easy Halloween costume for this year then consider what I'm doing: as a starting point look for something unusual, remarkable or distinctive from your wardrobe and work from there. It may not be something you wear often because it's quite bold perhaps? Maybe it's a red cape that looks a bit like Little Red Riding Hood, a red and white striped shirt like Where's Wally, red shorts like Mickey Mouse, or a blue rain coat that looks like Paddington Bear for example. Once you have that you can look out for the few remaining things you need to complete the look in charity stores or on Ebay if you plan ahead.